AS one of her descendants stands down as chair of Thwaites Brewery, new light shines on the remarkable Elma Amy Yerburgh.

She was as significant a player in the firm and Blackburn life as retiring boss Ann is today.

Elma brought the Yerburgh family into the business, took a key role in its affairs and was the first woman to be given the 'Freedom of the Borough of Blackburn'.

Born on July 30 1864 in London to Daniel and Eliza Thwaites, she was their only surviving child and granddaughter of the first Daniel Thwaites, founder of the firm.

Her father ran the business profitably becoming Blackburn's MP.

Elma married Robert Yerburgh, MP for Chester, who though not wealthy came from a very good family.

Daniel died shortly afterwards in 1888. Elma ignored his wish to sell the brewery, initially handing the running of the business to his nephew William Ward.

The wife of an MP with two sons, and estates and property to manage, she was busy for the next seven years. In 1890, she gave £1000 to Blackburn Ragged School. After the company went limited in 1897, Elma helped raise capital and, unusually for a married woman at the time, became steadily more involved with its running.

She was said to have attention to detail, conscientiousness and decisiveness in business matters. People called her an 'honest, upright, just and unselfish woman who remained singularly modest and retiring all her life'.

Publicity-shy but generous she looked after her employees turning Christmas gifts of food into £1 for all staff, known as 'Elma’s pound' (the name of a 2007 bicentenary bottled ale).

When the First World War broke out she and her husband were at a health spa in Germany and initially detained as prisoners of war but allowed to return home. Robert, 63, died in December 1916.

Elma continued as company chairman and in both world wars looked after the families of staff on active service and rewarded them on their return.

She developed a long association the Blackburn Royal Infirmary, in 1924 laying the foundation stone for its War Memorial Wing which she opened in 1928.

She supported Blackburn Orphanage and made gifts to help the unemployed, poor, sick and suffering. She was greatly concerned with slum clearance.

In October 1935 Elma was given the freedom of Blackburn, the sixth so honoured after five men including King Edward V11, 'in recognition of her great love for and generosity to Blackburn'.

She died in 1946.​​